Demolition project unfinished, justice still sought, doggie dining flops

December 29, 2011
  • Demolition continues on the former Washington County Hospital. The view is from the back, along Baltimore Street.
By Ric Dugan, Staff Photographer

With 2011 drawing to a close, The Herald-Mail took a look back at some of the stories the newspaper published during the year. We will follow up on some of those stories each day through Saturday to provide a glimpse of what happened next.

No use yet for hospital site

The story: In the months after Washington County Hospital's December 2010 closure, a hospital redevelopment task force recommended that Meritus Health demolish the former hospital and consider transferring it to a nonprofit group.

The update: Demolition work continues, but the future use of the site remains undetermined.

It's been more than a year since Washington County Hospital closed its doors and hospital operations moved to Meritus Medical Center off Robinwood Drive, but no decision has been made for how to use the former hospital property in Hagerstown.  

Meritus has received a grant from the state to study the site and issued a request for proposals from site use planners, potential developers and others interested in conducting the study, said Joseph Ross, president and chief executive officer of Meritus Health.

"We got over 100 responses from people that would like to be retained to inventory what the site is and begin to identify what it might be," Ross said.

Such a study was one of the steps recommended in January 2011 by the hospital redevelopment task force organized by the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce.

That group also recommended that the hospital sell the site to a nonprofit organization that would be in a position to hold on to the property until the economy improves, to prevent an economically undesirable use.

The Hagerstown-Washington County Industrial Foundation, known as CHIEF, and the Maryland Economic Development Corp. were mentioned as possible organizations to serve in that role.

Ross said it was too early to know whether that was the route the health system would take.

Meanwhile, demolition of the old hospital buildings began in the spring and continues, with completion expected around March, Ross said.

After demolition, "we will maintain the site appropriately, so it will be grassy and appropriately landscaped," he said.

— Heather Keels

Trial set in honored officer's slaying

The story: On Nov. 11, 2010, Pennsylvania Wildlife Conservation Officer David L. Grove was killed after he stopped a suspected poacher in Adams County, Pa.

The update: The man accused in his death is awaiting trial, and the Pennsylvania Game Commission has created a scholarship in Grove's name.

GETTYSBURG, Pa. — More than a year after Pennsylvania Wildlife Conservation Officer David L. Grove was killed in an exchange of gunfire, the man charged in his death awaits trial, while the state has honored the fallen officer's memory.

In November, the Pennsylvania Game Commission announced the creation of a college scholarship in Grove's name. And during the summer, Gov. Tom Corbett signed legislation naming a bridge on U.S. 15 crossing Marsh Creek in Adams County after Grove.

Grove, 31, of Fairfield, Pa., was shot four times on the night of Nov. 11, 2010, after he stopped two men in a pickup truck in Freedom Township on suspicion of poaching. Pennsylvania State Police allege that Christopher Lynn Johnson, 28, of Fairfield, shot and killed Grove in an exchange of gunfire.

Johnson, who was struck in the hip by a bullet, was arrested the next morning at a hunting camp in Franklin Township, police said. Charged with first-degree murder and other offenses, he faces the possible death penalty if convicted.

Grove, who formerly lived in Waynesboro, Pa., graduated in 1997 from Grace Academy in Hagerstown. He had served as a deputy wildlife conservation officer in Franklin County before being commissioned as a wildlife conservation officer in 2008 and assigned to the southern district of Adams County.

A defense motion for a continuance of Johnson's trial, previously scheduled for January, was granted in October, according to court records. Jury selection is currently slated to begin April 9, 2012, the records said.

— Don Aines

Doggie dining has no takers

 The story: The Dining Out Growth Act of 2011 took effect July 1, allowing restaurants to allow dogs in outdoor areas.

 The update: No restaurant has made inquiries about allowing the pets to eat with their owners.

This year, the Maryland General Assembly loosened the leash on doggie dining at restaurants.

The Dining Out Growth Act of 2011 took effect July 1, but, as of early December, there had been no takers in Washington County.

"No one locally even made any inquiries about it," Washington County Health Department spokesman Rod MacRae said in a voice-mail message on Dec. 9.

State lawmakers passed the Dining Out Growth Act to let people have dinner with their leashed dogs in restaurants' outdoor areas.

Restaurants must contact their local health department at least 30 days before they start accepting dogs.

The only Washington County delegation member who voted against the bill was Del. Neil C. Parrott.

At the time, Parrott, a Republican, said he didn't think the bill protected patrons from dangerous dogs, and he was concerned about hygiene. He also wondered why dogs were permitted as dining companions in the new law, but not other animals.

— Andrew Schotz

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